A forest employee patrolling the basin where the boulder once sat, found the boulder had suddenly reappeared nearly one month after it was reported missing, Prescott National Forest officials said.
“We are thrilled the Wizard Rock was returned, and are grateful that whoever took it was conscientious enough to give it back to the public,” said Sarah Clawson, district ranger for the Bradshaw Ranger District, in a statement.
The slab of black rock with streaks of white quartz holds special meaning to local geology enthusiasts, forest officials said. It’s greeted passing motorists along scenic Highway 89 for years and makes for a strong selfie setting.
Its disappearance confounded rangers. The stunning chunk of stone weighs about the same as a small car, so discreetly lifting it would’ve required some extreme effort.
It’s also illegal to remove minerals from national forests without a permit, so whoever managed to remove it would’ve faced up to $5,000 in fines or six months in jail (or both) if they hadn’t returned it.
That was probably enough to prompt the rock borrowers to return it to its original spot.
But it may not stay there for long. Forest officials said they’re considering moving the beloved Wizard Rock to a more prominent location for even more visitors to enjoy it.
This large boulder has not been the only rock that has been taken from the forest, according to a news release issued by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
“In the last four months, the forest has had two separate incidents of boulders being removed from the National Forest by individuals using heavy equipment as all the boulders have bone missing weighed approximately 750-2,000 pounds, which cannot be moved without equipment,” the news release stated.
Paula Liu contributed to this report.